I told you this would happen. I am indecisive and unable to make up my mind. The time has come to update my personal list of Prague’s top attractions. Previously I favoured: the metro system, the opera, carp at Christmas, weird name abbreviations, Czech inventions and the Woman on Zelezna. Just the other day I realised it was a while since I had seen the Woman on Zelezna. I thought she might have gone on holiday (to be restaurant-hawked herself for a change) but then I walked past her on Husova (another street quite close by) still wearing a bizarre combination of clothes, still hawking ineffectively. It’s nice that not everything changes.
The first list is still true. The metro is brilliant, opera is affordable, and the invention of sugar cubes is still impressive. However, I have been here longer now. I am older and wiser The weather is changing, which has enabled me to see a side of Prague that was hard to appreciate when my maximum outside exposure time was seven minutes of hurried scurrying (four if I had forgotten my hat).
So here’s Take 2:
1. The Spring
Not the Prague Spring, but rather Prague in the Spring. It’s peeking its head around the corner and I am (although meteorologically unqualified) certain that it will be here in full force any day now. Michael Fish told me. I thought it was only Brits that talked incessantly about the weather but it’s clear to me now that Czechs do too. I’ve heard you need to be a hardy soul to get through the winter here. I have emerged unscathed but it’s not been a terribly harsh winter by all accounts and it was all so novel that it didn’t matter that it was Still Snowing.
But spring is almost here now, and the sunnier days and kinder temperatures are bringing with them the most jubilant sense of optimism and “Springiness” across Prague. Even the very dour dry cleaner smiled at me as I wished her “Hezky Den“. I have been running outside along the Vltava River rather than sweating it out in the gloomy underground gym. I walk around without hat, gloves, scarf or boots – quite liberating in itself. The Castle in particular, which looked wonderful in snow, now looks even more magnificent in the sunshine. I am certain that in a few months I will be sweltering and missing the ice-bucket that was my old London office with its over-ambitious air conditioning. In the meantime – Prague in the spring is beautiful.
The view over Prague from Petrin Hill, a few days ago
Kampa Island in the Sunshine
2. Czech Inventions (Part Two)
Previously, I listed sugar cubes and fallomteric testing as the top two Czech inventions. I omitted contact lenses, which I have since learnt also came from this part of the world. I am a new-ish recruit to contact lenses. I was devastated the day I realised that my sight was so bad that I couldn’t carry on not seeing things for very much longer. Not having 20:20 vision is so limiting. I can longer be a fast-jet pilot or a fireman. Disappointing. Although at least contact lenses will get me through the days when I am too vain to wear glasses,without accidentally walking in front of a bus or something.
3. Thai Massage
Happily, if quite unexpectedly, Prague is full of Thai massage places. It is not exactly clear to me quite how or why Prague became this epicenter of deceptively strong, tiny Thai women. Being a bit lazy/busy, I’m afraid I have not bothered to find out. There is however a long-term Czech affinity with massage therapy and spa treatments in general, so maybe that has something to do with it.
I go to Nam Jai on Kaprova quite regularly and the ladies there are amazing. For the last two to three years I have suffered from chronic back pain. I’m not using ‘chronic’ in the incorrect sense here by the way. Not in the way that irritating people use the word ‘literally’; I am literally speechless. There are few phrases more likely to make me scream and shout and throw a dictionary at someone. No, my back pain is chronic in the medical sense of the word – i.e. long lasting and recurrent. It literally is chronic…
Numerous doctors and physios have diagnosed this to weak core strength (hence all the Pilates), poor desk-side posture and the fact that I am so short that my feet don’t reach the floor if I sit properly in a chair. None of them have been able to cure me, although they all recommended massage. I had regular massage in London until I realised I could just buy myself a new spine with the money I was paying. Happily, massage a little bit more affordable in Prague and, in my opinion, really very good.
It’s an acquired taste, Thai massage. To say is it aggressive is an understatement. A 45 to 60 minute session of twisting, pushing, pinching and cracking is not a relaxing experience exactly, but I do always come out feeling about an inch taller with a less knotted back that is a bit less sore. The ladies at Nam Jai are lovely and really skilled.
I am always careful to tip kindly here. I suspect that they are underpaid. More importantly, there is a certain moment towards the end of every massage where my regular masseuse holds my head with both hands and twists my neck until it cracks, twice. At this point it becomes very clear to me: if I upset her, she could very easily kill me.